By: Jared Hines
There was a lot on the line for the North Wright County RiverHawks in the team’s last home game of the season vs. Buffalo at Albertville Ice Arena.
Besides the traveling trophy–the Wright County Cup–the two teams fight for, it was also Senior night for seven of the RiverHawks players, playing in the last regular season home game of their high school careers.
Finally, the win would secure a Mississippi 8 Conference Championship for the second straight season, putting North Wright Country in a great position for a top-3 seed the night before the coaches seeding meeting for Section 8AA.
At the end of the night, a 3-1 win secured all three.
Win No. 20 of the season for Head Coach Cailyn McCauley and Co. was also the biggest. Besides finishing the conference schedule with an 11-1 record, the RiverHawks cleared the gap between them and second place Cambridge-Isanti/Mora/Pine City, giving them the conference title outright instead of being co-champions with the Bluejackets. The Bluejackets also had their last conference game of the season on Tuesday night defeating St. Francis/North Branch by a 6-1 score. With each win totaling two conference points, North Wright County finished with 22 points while the Bluejackets were two points short at 20 (10-2). One of those losses was to NWC on Jan. 8 by a 5-2 score. In that game, St. Cloud State commit MacKenzie Bourgerie scored a hat trick while Sydney Lemke and Sydney Petersen each added a goal of their own.
The scoring in Tuesday’s win started early with Lemke scoring a goal 42 seconds into the game, assisted by Bourgerie. The Bison tied it up with 12 minutes left in the period on a goal by Grayson Limke which concluded the scoring in the first period.
In the second, the scoring didn’t start as fast for the Riverhawks but they did manage to be the first ones on the board to begin the scoring in the period. 11:21 into the period, Lemke made it 2-1 with assists going to Bourgerie and birthday girl Chloe Finnerty. Less than two minutes later Bourgerie scored on a breakaway goal to give North Wright County a 3-1 lead. MacKenzie Petersen and Brinna Martin were credit with the assists. Goalie Anna LaRose took care of the rest, playing a fantastic game in net for the win. No goals were scored by either team in the third period.
Lily Johnson, Megan Sullivan, Kylee Wirtz, Lauren Rokala, MacKenzie Petersen, Payton Allen, and Alicia DeAntoni are the seven members of the 2019 senior class who celebrated their last regular season game on Tuesday night.
Coaches vote seeding takes place on Feb. 6. The RiverHawks are expected to be the No. 2 or 3 seed. All eight teams in Section 8AA will play their first section game on Feb. 9. Semifinals are on Feb. 12 and the Section Championship is on Feb. 15. All games are hosted by the high seed besides the final which is held at a neutral site.
Goalie Anna LaRose–a University of Maine 2020 commit–won her 19th game of the season in the win. LaRose’s stats before Tuesday’s game included 470 saves, 1.74 goals allowed average, and a .922 save percentage with six shutouts.
Another recent commit for the RiverHawks is Brinna Martin who decided to continue her hockey and academic career at D1 Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
16 different skaters registered a point throughout the course of the 2018-19 season. Before Tuesday’s game, Bourgerie led the team with 63 points, Lemke was second with 56 points and Chloe Finnerty was third with 49 points.
North Wright County finished the season with wins in 10 of their last 11 games.